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Praying With The Psalms


To appreciate the beauty and diversity of the Psalms. To use the words of the Psalms in order to be able express emotions during prayer.


The Book of Psalms has been described as not only the songbook of Scripture, but also the Bible’s prayer book. All the psalms are written to God; every one is a prayer. All sorts of prayers are represented: songs of penitence, hymns of praise, prayers of thanksgiving, festival songs and prayers of trust.[1] The Psalms are also among the oldest poems in the world and are full of power and passion, horrendous misery and unrestrained jubilation, tender sensitivity and powerful hope.[2] The Psalms have stood the test of time, and N. T. Wright reminds us that they “offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures.”[3]

N. T. Wright again:

Jesus himself quoted and referred to the Psalms in the manner of someone who had been accustomed to praying and pondering them from his earliest days. Paul referred to several psalms and wove the in quite a sophisticated way into his remarkable theology.[4]

Psalms of Lament

The Psalms of Lament address God with complaints, cries of despair, anger, frustration, protest and doubt. Tony Jones, in describing the Psalms of Lament and their application says,

Everyone has bad days, bad weeks, bad months, even bad years. Hard times are common to human existence. We all have things happen during the course of our lives that plunge us into despair—death of a loved one, a divorce, a lost job, a serious, illness, and accident…the largest group of psalms are the psalms of lament, songs for weeping, mourning and generally sad times. Sixty one of the psalms are songs of lament.[5]

The Psalms of Lament give voice to all our frustrations, disappointments, and pain. They allow us to speak to God with the psalmists words, and in doing so, surrender all our negative emotions to him and ask for his intervention and express trust that he will receive them and redeem us.

Psalm 130 (NIV)

Waiting for Divine Redemption

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

Psalm 6 (NIV)

1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? 4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? 6 I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. 8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving

When we feel overwhelmed with gratitude at God’s goodness, the beauty of creation, amazement at His power and majesty, if we feel don’t have the words to express this and do justice to the emotions we feel, we can turn to the Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving.

Psalm 100 (NIV)

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
 come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God.
 It is he who made us, and we are his;
 we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
 and his courts with praise;
 give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 138 The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm

1-3 Thank you! Everything in me says “Thank you!” Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again: “Thank you!” Thank you for your love, thank you for your faithfulness; Most holy is your name, most holy is your Word. The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength. 4-6 When they hear what you have to say, God, all earth’s kings will say “Thank you.” They’ll sing of what you’ve done: “How great the glory of God!” And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.


Option 1: If you have been struggling in any areas of your life, use the prayer time to either:

  • write a psalm of Lament: Psalms of Lament follow the same form: address to God, a complaint, a confession of trust in God, a petition for help, words of assurance and a vow of praise.[6] For guidance on how to write your own Psalm of Lament click here.

Or meditate on a Psalm of Lament using lectio divina. The Psalms of Lament are: 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142

Option 2: If you are feeling blessed, use the prayer time to either:

  • Write a Psalm of Thanksgiving. For guidance on how to write your own Psalm of Thanksgiving click here.
  • Or meditate on a Psalm of Thanksgiving using lectio divina. The Psalms of Thanksgiving are: 30, 65, 67, 92, 98, 100, 111, 103, 107, 116, 134, 138, 145, 147, 148, 150.


The Psalms are not only poetry in themselves; they are to be the cause of poetry in those who sing them, together and individually. They are God’s gift’s to us so that we can be shaped as his gift to the world.—N. T. Wright[7]

Additional resources

Crowder, David. Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi. (Colorado Springs: Think, 2004).

Wright, N.T. The Case for the Psalms: Why they are essential.


[1] Jones, Tony. Pray. (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2003), 55.

[2] Wright, N. T. The Case for the Psalms: Why they are essential. (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 2.

[3] Wright, The Case for the Psalms, 6.

[4] Wright, The Case for the Psalms, 14.

[5] Jones, Tony. Pray, 65.

[6] Jones, Pray, 66.

[7] Wright, The Case for the Psalms, 36.

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